News Flash: Minister prefers Dorothy Dixer questions

In a highly unusual move, NSW Resources Minister Chris Hartcher has issued a media release criticising Greens mining spokesperson, Jeremy Buckingham’s questions at a Budget Estimates hearing last Friday, the 28 October 2011. At the hearing Minister Hartcher and Jeremy Buckingham repeatedly clashed over the topic of mining and agriculture, with the Minister repeatedly attacking the questions rather than answering them. The media statement indicated that Minister Hartcher prefers pre-planned Dorothy Dixer questions from his own side.

Hartcher’s release put out on 28 October 2011 (after Estimates) entitled ‘Jeremy Buckingham: Uninformed and Unprepared‘  says in part:

“I received a number of valid questions from my Liberal, Nationals and Labor colleagues and was questioned on everything from energy security to the IPART review on a fair price for solar,” Mr Hartcher said.

“By comparison, questions asked by Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham were half-formed thoughts with little basis in fact and displayed a complete ignorance of NSW Government policy.

(Read Hartcher’s entire media release here)

Hartcher’s release may have been motivated by Jeremy Buckingham’s media release ‘Minister dodges questions on coal seam gas’ put out the same day as the hearings.

Under immense pressure from farmers and the community to stop mining and coal seam gas destorying large tracts of NSW, it is no great surprise that Minister Hartcher prefers Dorothy Dixers like this one from his colleague, the Nationals MLC Rick Colless:

The Hon. RICK COLLESS: Minister, can you advise the Committee what the Government is doing to meet the growing demand for gas in New South Wales?

Mr Hartcher then read a pre-prepared statement to the committee.

Rather than Jeremy Buckingham being unprepared, it seemed Minister Hartcher was more intent on playing the man rather than the ball, and dodging some critical questions relating to the coal seam gas industry.

You be the judge whether Jeremy Buckingham’s questions were uninformed or whether the Minister wished to dodge the questions:

HANSARD TRANSCRIPT – GPSC5 – 28 October 2011

The Hon. JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: The Government has announced its plans to ban evaporation ponds for coal seam gas. How does the Government expect the industry to deal with the millions of litres of salty, chemical-laden wastewater that the industry produces?

Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: There is a premise in your question that there are millions of litres.

The Hon. JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: There are.

Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: Can you source that and justify it?

The Hon. JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: Absolutely.

Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: I will await the information from you.

The Hon. JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: The National Water Commission identified that as a key risk with coal seam gas in its submission.

Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: No, I asked you about your premise that there were millions of litres involved.

The Hon. JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: Are you saying there are not millions of litres of salty water or toxic water involved in coal seam gas? Maybe you should check the facts.

Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: Once again you are making wildly speculative statements in the form of questions.

The Hon. JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: That is not speculation; that is a statement of fact.

Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: Mr Buckingham, I would urge you to actually get the facts right.

The Hon. SCOT MacDONALD: Point of order: Can we let the Minister answer the question, please.

The Hon. JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: Certainly. How will the industry dispose of the millions of tonnes of concentrated brine or salt that the industry produces?

Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: Once again I need you to be able to substantiate to me that it is going to produce millions of tonnes of brine or salt.

The Hon. JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: It is widely acknowledged that that is the case.

Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: It is not widely acknowledged at all.

The Hon. JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: Estimates are that in Queensland it is 40 million tonnes of salt over the lifetime of those proposals.

Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: That is in Queensland.

The Hon. JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: Okay. So we have no plans. Recently Ross Dunn, my good friend from the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, told a public meeting in Leichhardt in relation to coal seam gas drilling that drilling will, to varying degrees, impact on adjoining aquifers. Do you accept that it is the case that coal seam gas drilling will impact on adjoining aquifers?

Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: I am not going to comment on statements other people may or may not have made. I will tell you that we have introduced the aquifer interference regulation, which is designed toprotect aquifers from any impact from drilling.

The Hon. JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: Do you guarantee there will be no impact from drilling and, potentially, fracking?

Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: I have given you my answer.


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